Why I Chose a Women’s College!

The Lehigh Valley, where I live, is full of colleges and universities.  Each school has its unique culture, great programs, clubs and activities.  In the heart of Allentown is Cedar Crest College, a women’s college founded in 1867.  Its campus spans many acres and is listed as an arboretum.  Its historic buildings mix with the contemporary, just as the traditions of the college have remained steadfast while welcoming change.  Every day, I walk to work and classes, to meetings and activities, and I feel truly at home and welcome.  This leads me to why I chose a women’s college.

Cedar Crest welcomed me as a continuing education student, and I found the environment to encourage growth, leadership, and success.  There are opportunities around each corner, and I have taken as many as I could over the years.  The faculty and staff want students to not only pass, but to excel, and they support creativity, initiative, and innovation.  I have found my education to be hands-on and it has focused on how to apply information gained to real world experiences.  In addition, I have found my voice at Cedar Crest.  I am now more empowered than ever, and I am ready to make changes in the world.  Not only am I ready, but I also believe that I can because Cedar crest has inspired me and instilled within me a higher level of confidence.  I believe in myself and my abilities, and I believe in each student who graduates from Cedar Crest because they have been given the tools to succeed if they choose to use them.

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Cedar Crest College creates leaders.  This is a fact.  I am an example of what a women’s college can do in a modern world.  While Cedar Crest has a strong tradition, and so much history that is worthwhile to explore, it is the future that is so exciting.  Here I am about to graduate, and all I can think about is how much love I have for this incredible institution, and how can I be there as it evolves into the 21st century.  With exciting new programs in health care, a new MBA, and a strong new writing major, I am enamored with this dynamic path Carmen Twillie Ambar, Cedar Crest College’s esteemed president, is crafting.  She is continually meeting and exceeding challenges put forth by the needs of the college and community. This passion is catching, and I want to remain involved.  I can see myself becoming just as active as an alum as I am now, and working to help the college meet strategic goals.  I am more passionate about this unique world of higher education than I ever imagined I could be, and I hope to to use my skills in this way after graduation.

I look forward to walking across that stage in may and entering into a new chapter of my life as an alum of Cedar Crest College.  I also plan to give back because so many wonderful  donors to the college have helped to support my education. My last month of college is coming to a close, and I feel like this part of my life is one of the hardest to let go.  I have been truly affected by my experiences at Cedar Crest, and I am so incredibly thankful.  I know the new chapter will be exciting, and Cedar Crest will still be a major part of my life.  Perhaps I will even pursue my master’s degree there soon.  However, the undergraduate experience is a unique one, and it will be over for me in 5 short weeks.  The lifestyle I have known, the friendships created, and the overall experience will be gone physically, and only remain as memory.  I chose a women’s college because it was right for me.  It gave me more than I could have expected.  In fact, it changed my life forever.  I would choose Cedar Crest again, in a heartbeat.

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PLEN Seminar Experience Taught Me How To Better Advocate, Lead, and Pursue My Passions!

I have not posted a blog entry recently, but I have a good excuse.  I was attending the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers!  For anyone who is not familiar with PLEN, I highly recommend you check out their site.  http://plen.org/

Cedar Crest College regularly sends a handful of students to PLEN seminars, and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen this year.  While I will be covering some of the information I feel I received from this truly enlightening seminar throughout the week, I want to offer an overview.  PLEN is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women as leaders.  They seek to connect women in top level roles throughout various areas of health, science, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and other agencies with high-achiever undergraduate and graduate students wishing to make their mark on the world.  PLEN provides multiple sessions with a panel of women, who not only detail their own experiences navigating their career path to reach their current positions, but who also inspire students to seek out their passion, to work hard, and to never give up.  This was one of the most inspirational experiences I have had.

These sessions were broken up by practical workshops to help students build better resumes, to enhance their LinkedIn profiles, and to gain necessary networking and interviewing skills.  Overall, I feel I walked away from this seminar with more than I could have expected.  From the pages of notes that are filled with detailed information from each speaker, to exceptional quotes, and a feeling of enhanced self-confidence, I believe PLEN went beyond the experiential, into something life-changing.

The seminar was off to a rocky start initially, because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast.  Below is a picture of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. where PLEN headquarters is located.

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That was just the beginning, but PLEN was able to continue the seminar despite a few speakers who were unable to make it.  We also had to miss a planned field trip, but they filled that time with an activity that was also rewarding, and gave us a chance to think about the use of social media marketing as a tool in nonprofits.

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Our keynote speaker, Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of UNICEF was one of the most incredible women I have listened to.  She spoke about her own family, and how she made decisions about her career, that while unusual, were exactly what she needed to get to a place where she was satisfied.  One quote that really stuck out to me was, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get where you want to be tomorrow” (Stern).  While we tend to think of how we can move up the career ladder, sometimes we need to stay on the same tier while moving to a different career or organization.  We should in fact, follow our passions because that is what will make us feel complete at the end of the day.

Caryl Stern was just one of the many speakers who left me with great ideas, plans, and thoughts to mull over.  The women who dedicated their time, helped to make a change in the lives of the students who attended.  Based on the wonderful group of women who attended with me, I believe they will take this knowledge and use it to make a difference in the world.  This is one thing I can say I have take away from PLEN, every person who spoke fanned the flames of passion I have for advocacy, and this passion will lead me to initiate necessary social changes.  This goes to show that as I move into a career in advocacy and leadership, I can do the same for others, and if we all did this, our world would become a much better place.  This is just one of the many bits of information I took away from PLEN.

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I will carry this experience with me, and continually look back at what I learned so I can apply these lessons to my life as my path shifts.  I will also build upon the networks that were started and hope they lead to valuable connections.  And, I will continue to work towards my goals to make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Below is a picture of the great group of women who attended this seminar, it came from the PLEN Facebook page which I have linked below.

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Thank you Cedar Crest College for your support and for sending me to this seminar, and thank you PLEN for all of the hard work that went into planning.  I was also chosen to receive a PLEN scholarship, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Looking to the New Year Ahead!

The day has arrived.  A shiny new year has begun and people awoke with a buzz of excitement, nursing hangovers, and dreaming of accomplishing newly crafted resolutions.  I started my day like any other, but ideas, plans, goals, and dreams have been carried with me in my thoughts through the day.  I know I have an exciting year ahead, and a challenging one.

I will be graduating this May with my two bachelor’s degrees, and I will begin my journey into a career.  It is hard to describe the feelings that come to a soon-to-be-graduate because there are too many.  I have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, knowing I have worked hard to achieve this goal.  In fact, it has been a six year process.  I also feel as though I have been provided invaluable skills and knowledge that will lead to an ability to move into a career.  I know the first half of the year will be full of classes, craziness, and sadly, the last semester of my undergraduate career.  I will maintain my expectations of myself, and I will graduate summa cum laude.  I will walk across the stage at graduation with a mix of pride and sadness.  A lump will fill my throat as I realize I am leaving behind the sights, sounds, and familiarity that has become a second home to me.

I will embark on a journey into the the world of job searching, learning the lingo, prepping resumes, and preparing for interviews.  I will carry the confidence I have gained with me into the workforce, knowing I am smart, strong, and capable.  I will perhaps consider graduate school, and finish my novel.  I have so many things that will fill my year with joy and achievement.  My educational and career goals will be a main focus for me this year, but there is something that must be considered in all things.  My family.

I love my family, and my son has had a challenging year with school and his behavior.  His mental illnesses have spun out of control, and it has been very difficult to work with him.  I will continue to get him the help he needs, but I will also work to help him to see his worth and potential because that will hopefully give him the strength he needs to change the path he is on.  The challenges I have faced as a mother with special needs children has been overwhelming at times, and I plan to continue to write and blog about advocacy issues because there are so many people who struggle with this problem.

I am truly excited to make this an incredible year, and I would love to hear the plans of others.  Please post any goals you may have or what you are most excited about in the coming year!

New Year’s Series: Resolution Planning Time

Now that we have completed the exercises over the past few days, you should have a list of your toughest lesson learned, the successes you have had over the past year, your past goals and dreams, and a SWOT table with your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  This is a lot of information, but it will help you to plan resolution like never before.  The reason it is hard to stick to resolutions is because we tend to come up with a general goal and give ourselves a year to complete it.  There is no real plan.

Your first task is to go through your lessons learned because if one of them is that you need to cut toxic relationships from your life before they drag you down, and you want to resolve to make a toxic relationship stronger this year, you need to remember what you have learned in the past.  After making your resolutions , you will revisit this list to make sure your previous lessons do not apply to any of your new resolutions.

Next, you need to look at your successes and study them.  Did you succeed a great deal in one aspect of your life like your career, but not in your personal life?  Perhaps you want to continue to build on these successes, or perhaps you want to balance things out and add resolutions that will focus on a different aspect of your life.  Think about what made you successful for everything on your list.  Perhaps you were passionate about these things, maybe you accomplished more in the first half of the year when you were thinking about your goals for the year, or at the end when you realized you had not accomplished what you wanted to yet.  This is important because it helps you to see how you think, plan, and work.

The next step is to look at past goals and dreams that were left behind.  Are any of these still relevant? Did you give up on them because you were not ready, you were scared, or perhaps it is a path you left behind and would rather leave it in the past.  We all change as we grow, and this includes goals and dreams.  This is where you should break out the highlighter and highlight any goal or dream you would like to rekindle.

Finally, go over your SWOT.  You should see what your strengths are.  Will these help you achieve your goals, and is there anything missing that you should try to develop?  With your weaknesses, it is important to know what they are and if you can try to change that aspect of yourself.  Opportunities to enhance your life, and make changes to yourself, to grow and learn, can lead to resolutions.  Finally, threats, what threats do you have to your success, and how can you work through them?  You should always be prepared for these threats and for the task to overcome them.

This in-depth look at yourself should have helped you to come up with some resolutions you may not have considered before.  Your last task is to make a list of everything you would like to accomplish in the next year.  For each item, you need to consider if a different resolution should come first, if it should be within a certain period of time, and if it should be during a specific time of year.  Each resolutions should have a date to start, and an expected date to finish.  You should try to spread your goals out and make sure this is something you incorporate into your schedule.  Most of us use a scheduler on our phone, online, or a planner.  You can add the dates for your resolutions to it, and even reminders.  If it is a big resolution, create steps to help you achieve it.  This should also be added to your planner.  A more detailed plan like this allows you to carry your goals through the year and gives you a timeline to work from.  Once you have your completed resolution plan, think about your lessons learned, make sure they still apply, and think about your strengths that will help you achieve your goals.

Now, you can begin the year right, with a plan that will help you to find success.  I wish you all the best of luck in this coming year.  2015 has the potential to be a magical year if you work hard!  I hope you will all update me as we near 2016, and let me know if this worked for you.  I would love to hear about successful resolutions!  Happy New Year!!!

New Year’s Series: Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

We are almost there!  2015 is looming around the corner just waiting for the ball to drop and for everyone to celebrate with champagne kisses and a frenzy of resolutions.  This means we must get the last exercise in to prepare for resolution planning.  We can use everything we have come up with to prepare not just a list of half-hearted resolutions, but a plan that makes sense to us, that is attainable, and that is relevant.

Today, I want you to make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) table about yourself.  This tables should be a square broken into four squares.  In the top left, place your strengths.  This could be your personality strengths or skills.  Really, anything that makes you a strong person or hard worker.  In the top right, write your weaknesses.  We all have them, and this is important for you to know.  These are parts of you and your personality that could be limiting, or that could become a resolution to change.  In the bottom left, place opportunities.  This could be opportunity for change, growth, or anything else that you recognize as an opportunity.  Finally, in the bottom right, place threats.  This includes any roadblocks or challenges that threaten your progress.

Once this is complete, review everything you have written from the exercises over the past few days because this information will help when it is time to write the plan tomorrow.  Good luck!

The Transformative Nature of Education!

There is so much controversy over education right now.  Prices of a degree can be difficult for many people and the job market makes many question the value of a degree.  There are many articles out there with statistics telling people whether a college degree is worth it.  For the most part, everything I have read seems to show a higher level of income for degree earners in many fields, but this post is going to explore something else.  Education is not just about the income that will be earned later.  Education holds a treasure that goes beyond the paycheck, it is transformative for the learner.

As a college student who has spent six years juggling full-time education and a family to earn two degrees, I can say I have gained much more than I anticipated from my years in college.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am at an all women’s day college right now, but I have become truly empowered.  I have found the professors at Cedar Crest College to be inspiring, always challenging me to become stronger and better.  The small class sizes instill an environment of collaboration, and I have gained much from this.  I have learned to speak about my beliefs and ideas with conviction, and I have grown as a public speaker.  I have gained confidence and determination.  I am an active leader who takes charge and builds professional relationships with people based on trust.  I can collaborate, network, negotiate, and accomplish more that I though possible.  I have changed drastically.

Beyond the skills I have attained and the confidence I have built, I have also learned a great deal about myself.  I have found that I am passionate about more than writing.  I now know that I love leadership roles and teamwork.  I enjoy being challenged, and I have a passion for advocacy roles in various areas.  I have learned that my career goals can be expanded and I can aim for more than I intended.  My education has given me the gift of knowledge about the business world, and the analytical thinking skills needed to solve and analyze problems.  It has also helped to uncover the potential I had hidden deep inside myself.  While there are debates about the value of education all over the web, I find the lessons I have learned to be invaluable.

I will carry my education with me as I move forward into a rewarding life because I am now much richer than when I began college.  Richer, in the sense that the treasure I have is a better understanding of myself and a realization that the possibilities for my future are limitless.  In fact, I now know that the only thing that ever truly limited me from reaching for my dreams before was myself.  I could never put a price tag on the education I have received because its value cannot be measured.  Confidence, empowerment, skills, friendships, connections, and personal growth are worth the student loans I will owe and so much more.  I know not every student will have the same experience, but that is because they choose not to.  We can make our education great by tapping into each resource offered, and becoming involved.  This is how I made the most of my education, and it has truly transformed me.  I hope more young men and women choose to do the same because it can make the difference between a career at the end, or a struggle.

Why “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg Can Help You!

I have heard fellow business students speak about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” over the past semester and knew I had to read it.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the business world is evolving and women are taking more risks, or if it is because I attend an all women’s day college, but the popularity of this book is making its mark.  I have lofty goals and know the glass ceiling still exists in many ways for women.  As soon as my semester was over, I dove into this book.  The main concept that is discussed in this book is the fact that women tend to steer clear of the table, when they should be willing to sit down, even if they are the only woman, and “lean in.”  It is necessary for women to become more involved in the business, the dialog, the negotiations, and to not fear discussing important topics.

Sandberg even goes as far as discussing the need for women to speak about their family choices such as having a baby, and to not turn down opportunities because they think their pregnancy or children will affect it.  Instead, they should determine the choice they make based on their desires.  I have seen how women limit themselves, and I am a shining example of this as I have always put others ahead of myself, until recently.  I think Sandberg makes an important point because women tend to remain silent when they should be speaking up!  It is crucial for women to know where they are going and what they want.

As more equality is found in the workplace, more fathers will need to step up, and I have seen this happening as well.  My husband is incredibly supportive, and while I can nitpick and say he is not taking on enough housework, he takes on a great deal of the work with the kids.  I assume that as I work more outside of the home, he will step up even more and take on housework.  Sandberg shows the unfortunate seclusion men face when they become the primary caregivers for their children, and this dynamic also needs to change if women are to rely on them more.  The important thing is for the dialog to continue so changes can be made.  Women need to “lean in” because their opinions and challenges matter.  Without an equal say, there cannot be an equal society.

Sandberg brings up important topics, some of which are already widely discussed, but her overall message is important to the development of women in the workforce.  There are many things I will take away from this book, but more importantly, when I find myself backing away from a situation because I am one of the only women, or I am nervous, I will “lean in.”

Leadership Series: Having a Vision

One of the first things a good leader should do is know their vision.  Part of this requires a strong personal mission statement.  Before you can lead others, you have to know what you expect from yourself and how you plan to bring this about in a way that will influence your life and/or others.  This is what will get you more acquainted with yourself and what direction you plan to move in to achieve your mission.  This is just one step of creating your vision.

Every leadership role I have held has required me to create a vision that is unique to that particular role.  To successfully lead and engage others, you must be clear on what the main objective is and how each person involved will take part in your plans.  It is like an engine with many parts that all have to work for the car to start.  You cannot find success in any project if any of the parts or people who play a role in your plans are not doing their job.  Everything needs to work, and as a leader, you are responsible for this.  You have to have an extremely strong plan that will help you meet the end goal, or vision of the project.

So, while it seems like having a goal or vision can be quite easy, once you realize the amount of work that goes in to designing a plan that can be well utilized and executed with strategy and efficiency to make your plan the best plan, you may find yourself overwhelmed.  This is why having a plan is so important.  Your vision is merely the fuel to keep the engine running.  Everyone want to reach this goal because you make them believe in it.  However, this means you have to have workers who care, and you have to champion them when things get difficult.  You are the inspiration, and the guide.  You are the one that will be there when someone isn’t doing their job to make the tough decisions, even if it means replacing this person.  You are the one that is responsible if the goal is not reached.

Being a leader is tough, and people can provide you with inspiring quotes all day, but if you are not prepared to work hard, you will not make it.  You have to have the strength to carry a team, and the nerve to challenge them.  You have to be resilient, and flexible.  Sometimes, mistakes happen, and you have to find a creative way to fix the problem. You have to take risks, take criticism, cheer, support, and be ready to celebrate when hard work pays off.  Yes, vision is important, but the realization of everything that leads to obtaining that vision is even more important.  Everyone can have a dream, but success will come only to those who are willing to invest themselves completely into manifesting them.